I have been beset by feelings of anxiety over the last few weeks. My recent blogs have described how my mindfulness and compassion meditation practice have helped me. They have enabled me to turn towards and experience the anxiety. They have enabled me to look after myself, in my meditation practice and in my daily life, during this time of difficulty. They have enabled me to cultivate the resources of kindness, strength and wisdom to be with the experiences. They have enabled me to ask for help and to share my difficulties with my family, friends and colleagues, who have been enormously supportive. So, what is fear?
One of the biggest blocks I have uncovered was that I was ashamed at being so beset by fear. I had an idea about myself that I ‘should’ be able to cope skilfully with whatever life throws at me. After all, I am an experienced meditator and an experienced mindfulness teacher. I am supposed to be an expert in the field! On turning towards and feeling the shame I was able to share this with trusted family and friends. Their response was universally that there was nothing to be ashamed of. This really helped to normalise the feeling of shame and gain a broader perspective. I am very moved by the support I have received and very pleased that I have been able to ask for support.
I have been doing compassionate imagery practices from our Level 2 compassion course. In particular, compassionate image and compassionate colour. These are available on our free compassion based living app. When I first encountered these practices I was quite dismissive of them, but over the years as I have practiced them more and more, I have understood their power. Now when I bring them to mind I can feel strong and safe, I can draw on resources of kindness and clear seeing, that help me to face the difficulties of life.
This morning I was doing the compassionate colour practice. I was giving myself a hug and bathing in a ‘ready brek’ orange glow which enveloped and coursed through my body. I felt relaxed and the feelings of anxiety had abated.
All this mindfulness and compassion meditation and daily life practice created conditions for an insight to arise – or I could say to re-arise. The insight wasn’t just the concepts that arose, which I know intellectually anyway. It was a deeper, felt sense, knowing that emerged. What Rob Nairn calls ‘recognition’. It started with ‘What is fear anyway?’.
I recognised that the fear was a biological response, due to millions of years of evolution. I recognised that the biological response was itself a response to imagined future scenarios and that this tendency to imagine was itself, due to hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. I recognised that my particular style of imagining was a result of old strategies to stay safe, that were no longer effective. I recognised that all this worked together as an automated system, without inherent intelligence. I recognised that I had a choice not to buy into the feelings of fear and the messages about myself that the fear carried.
After this experience, I felt relieved and joyful. I wanted to capture this insight in words in this blog so as to really inhabit it. To reinforce the recognition.
None of this would be possible without the insight training I have undertaken with Rob Nairn, along with my exceptionally gifted colleagues within the Mindfulness Association. I am truly grateful for it and for them. I feel another chink of freedom shining through the armour of my conditioning and deeply held expectations and assumptions.
With the publication of the long awaited book, From Mindfulness to Insight, setting out the key elements of the insight training, my deep wish is that more people are able to cultivate the skills of recognition, which are so freeing. At the Mindfulness Association we are also making our Level 3 Insight training more widely available, to all who have a mindfulness meditation practice, of whatever flavour.
My wish is that more people are able to free themselves from fear and find more freedom to flourish in their lives. The compassionate imagery practices are a good place to begin!